RadKid.Org: Reactive Attachment Disorder

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Reactive Attachment Disorder: Resources for Parents & Kids

As new “parents” of a RADish, my wife and I both wanted to learn everything we could about the problem, fearing that, at the age of twelve, we had very little time in which to have a positive impact.

At first, we went for the books that would help us to better understand reactive attachment disorder. This was especially important because our nephew was seeing a child psychologist who did not himself have a good understanding of the disorder. We found that those written by Dan Hughes were particularly helpful in that respect, and interestingly enough, when we were able to find an attachment therapist, we learned that she had trained under Dr. Hughes, a man who we were to see twice during a few years of attachment therapy.

Nancy Thomas provided us with the most valuable practical advice in actually having to parent a child with reactive attachment disorder. Her book, "When Love is not Enough," should be first on everyone's to-buy list.

Others that we found both helpful and informative include "High Risk," by Ken Magid and Carole A. McKelvey, "Holding Time," by Martha Welch. "The Things I Want Most," by Richard F. Miniter, was touching and also quite useful.

One by Beverly James, entitled, "Handbook for Treatment of Attachment Disorder in Children" was most helpful to me in putting together this site, but it is intended for clinicians, as the title implies. While there was much that I didn't understand, this book was useful in helping me to understand the disorder from the perspective of a therapist, rather than that of a parent.

I don't include her in my book section because her books do not seem to be available on Amazon.com, but if you ever come across anything by Deborah Hage, I strongly recommend buying it. Better yet, don't pass up any opportunity to sit in on one of her lectures. Having her and Nancy Thomas in the same room is truly precious!

These are just a few that we had read early on, and which stick in my mind as being especially useful to us in a trying time. Certainly, there are others that might be just as good, and I include some of those which were recommended to me in our book section.

Ronald S. Federici, Gregory Keck, and Terry Levy are widely praised by those who have read their books. Having met the first two at an ATTACh conference in Pittsburgh a couple of years ago, and sat in on some of their lectures, I don't doubt that their books are valuable resources.

I've also included a place in my resource directory for books that are particularly helpful to children who are suffering from reactive attachment disorder.

While children - even those with detachment disorder - are all individuals, and not alike in every way, we were faced with the challenge of taking in a twelve-year-old with undiagnosed reactive attachment disorder. He had the body and intelligence of a twelve-year-old, and the emotions of a two-year-old, but he thought of himself as an adult.

He could read well and it seemed that he could sometimes understand abstract concepts in a book that would be lost on him in real life. So we encourage him to read - by making books available even while pretending that it didn't matter to us one bit, as one often has to do with a RAD kid. When I had a book that I wanted him to read, I'd leave it on my desk, or in the kitchen, and make sure that he had access to it for a few minutes.

I would also buy him books that I thought he'd enjoy, and he'd read them too. The ones that I saw the need to be sneaky about were the ones that he might otherwise recognize as being therapeutic, or good for him.

There were also books that he would have been insulted by, had I told him that I wanted him to read them. He had little or no understanding of any emotion other than anger and, since that was always there, we couldn't know just what it meant to him. The problem was that the books that taught emotions were intended for children much younger than twelve.

So I left them lying around the house. He would pick them up, and he would read them. Books such as "The Velveteen Rabbit," "Fire Cat," and "Today I Feel Silly And Other Moods That Make My Day" fall into that category, although there are many others.

Our nephew was such an avid reader that my wife and I wanted to take advantage of that as much as we could without sacrificing his willingness to read. While he was perfectly free to read any unobjectionable book that he took an interest in, we wanted to slip in a few that he might actually learn from.

He attended public school the first semester that he was with us and a book that was assigned to him by his sixth grade teacher was "The Great Gilly Hopkins," by Katherine Patterson. He didn't like the book, probably because it was a school assignment, he was able to see some of himself in it. For those of you who may not be familiar with the book, Gilly Hopkins, the protagonist, is an eleven-year-old with an obvious attachment disorder, although the diagnosis is not given.

I had noticed that some of the things that my nephew enjoyed doing with me were things that fathers normally did with their children at a much younger age - simple activities that most children could expect from their fathers as they were growing up. For example, he loved it when I carried him around on my shoulders, and having me walk around while he was standing on my feet. These were things that my dad did with me when I was very young, but my nephew never had the opportunity to do any of these things with his father, and I realized that he still had that need.

About six months after he came to live with us, I started the tradition of reading to him when he went to bed. I was afraid that he would feel insulted, since he could read quite well on his own, but he loved it. I took that one off the table, making it one of the enjoyable activities that he couldn't lose through misbehavior. No matter how hateful he was during the day, I read a chapter to him every night.

It makes me want to cry when I think back to one day when, during a rage, he tried to kill me. Since the stated penalty for violent acts was respite, he was going away for the night. He was still very angry, so much so that I was holding him down for his protection and mine, when I asked if he wanted me to read to him since he wouldn't be at our house that evening.

He did. Immediately, the darkness went away from his eyes. He insisted on getting into his pajamas and into bed, so that we could do it the way we always did it. I am crying now as I write this. It was that precious.

I read several books to him over a period of about one year, until he had emotionally grown out of the need to be read to at night. I still do it once in awhile, especially when we've had a particularly bad day.

Among the books that I read to him were "The Foundling," by Linda K. Hayner, and the entire "Ender's Shadow" series, by Orson Scott Card. Although I don't know that Card had reactive attachment disorder in mind when he authored the series, the protagonist, Bean, was a street urchin who has had to shut off his emotions in order to survive. As the story progresses, Bean learns that, while this was helpful to him while he was still on the street, this later becomes a burden to be overcome as he tried to fit into the lives of other people.

So there it is. Please look through our resource directory. I think you'll find something there that will be of use to you.

We’ve bought several books, most of which were helpful, and we’ve found others that we’d like to buy. Wherever I have personal knowledge of a book, I’ve included my own observations; otherwise the descriptions are derived from other sources.

Please send your own book recommendations to me, so that I can include them for others to benefit from.

-- Ken

Tapestry Books-Adoption Books




Last Modified on: Saturday, August 08, 2009



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